Green clay, also known as illite, is an organic material comprised of a host of essential minerals, iron oxides, and decomposed plant material such as kelp and seaweed. Illite was called French green clay for centuries, named after the rock quarries in the south of France that yielded most of the world's illite deposits. The clay is truly green in color; the more it leans toward gray-green, the less valuable it is deemed. Green clay is used in alternative medicine, both externally and internally, for many reasons, but mostly for cleaning and detox because of its vast absorbent properties. Illite is also used to relieve menstrual cramps, morning sickness, diarrhea, indigestion, and heartburn.

Detoxification and Cleansing

The detoxification properties of green clay are widely revered by alternative health practitioners, estheticians, and environmental managers. According to a study published in Clay Minerals, Volume 34, Number 3, the absorption of different clays was studied, and green clay was found to be an ideal and cost-effective way to clean heavy metals from industrial wastewater. You can use it in a similar fashion to clean your digestive system and eliminate toxins. The recommended dose is one teaspoon of green clay powder stirred into an 8 oz. glass of water or 4 oz. glass of juice. Let stand overnight, stir with a plastic spoon, and drink on an empty stomach, either first thing upon rising or just before bed. This regimen can be repeated every day for 21 days and then resumed after a one-week break.

Menstrual Cramps and Morning Sickness

Menstrual cramps are treated both internally and externally with green clay. Women who are suffering extensively can drink the water and clay mixture for the first three weeks of their menstrual cycle. During menstruation, it is recommended to take a break from the clay mixture and instead apply a warm poultice to the lower abdomen. Green clay has also been used successfully as a treatment for nausea, and as such is a natural remedy for morning sickness. Rebecca Frey, in the article "French Green Clay," published in the Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, states that green clay has been used to "cleanse the digestive tract, treat nausea or other gastric disorders, ease menstrual cramps, or relieve sore throats."

Vital Minerals

The mineral content of French green clay is extraordinary, including but not limited to: magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, silicon, selenium, iron, copper, and cobalt. Drinking a clay and water mixture delivers these mineral nutrients to the body, while simultaneously removing dangerous toxins like heavy metals, free radicals, and environmental pollutants. Raymond Dextreit, a French naturopath, claimed that the minerals in green clay provide healing power: copper battles infections, selenium boosts liver function, cobalt treats anemia, and all the minerals together work to retard the aging process and balance the body's natural equilibrium.

First Aid

As a soothing, healing balm for cuts, scrapes, small wounds, sprains, minor burns, insect bites, and aching muscles, green clay can be made into a poultice and applied directly to the affected area. The clay works for cuts, scrapes, and wounds by drawing out the infection. It is said to be a comforting remedy for aching muscles and joints, especially when combined with the essential oils of rosemary or lavender.

Beauty Treatments

The absorbent properties of French green clay work in beauty treatments by drawing out impurities and toxins from the skin, toning and firming while stimulating circulation. Estheticians use it to tighten pores, exfoliate dead skin, and reveal a smoother, fresher complexion. It is known to clear problem skin and heal blemishes, usually in the form of a clay mask. If you have a dry or sensitive skin complexion, you should use a clay mask only once a week, as the clay will absorb moisture from the skin along with any impurities. A green clay masks can be purchased ready-made, or you can mix it yourself from powdered clay, adding aloe vera if your skin is sensitive, or 4 or 5 drops of jojoba oil if your skin is oily.